Inside the Walls of a Values-Based Leadership Organization
Editor’s Note: This post is part of the series “Workplace Morale,” a weeklong effort co-hosted by Switch & Shift and the folks at SmartBrief’s SmartBlog on Leadership. Be sure to keep track of the series here and check out our daily e-mail newsletter. Don’t subscribe? Sign up.
Cheerfulness, confidence, zeal, enthusiasm, loyalty and belief; these are just a few of the words that show up on a Google search for the definition of morale. Interestingly, while the words may vary a bit, what’s similar is most all are referred to in the context of feelings and / or emotions. And workplace morale is just that, the aggregated feelings and emotions of any given workforce, in the context of the work itself.
In Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee’s seminal book Primal Leadership, the authors wrote, “Quite simply in any human group the leader has maximal power to sway everyone’s emotions. If people’s emotions are pushed toward the range of enthusiasm, performance can soar; if people are pushed toward rancor and anxiety, they will be thrown off stride.” At Luck Companies, we could not agree more.
In any human group the leader has maximal power to sway everyone’s emotions. If people’s emotions are pushed toward the range of enthusiasm, performance can soar; if people are pushed toward rancor and anxiety, they will be thrown off stride.
Luck Companies has been in the human business for 90 years extending back to 1923 when our founder Charles Luck Jr. started the company on the philosophy, “If you do right by your people, they will do right by you.” Today, his beliefs are manifested in our company’s value proposition of “Doing good (making a difference in the lives of our associates), is the best path to doing well (exceptional personal and business performance).” Day in and day out we focus not only what we do, but how and why we do it with a culture that prioritizes enterprise-wide alignment to a set of timeless core values and a purpose beyond just making money. Our mission (or purpose), “We will ignite human potential through Values-Based Leadership and positively impact the lives of others around the world,” leverages the fact that all human beings are born with the extraordinary potential to live a life of meaning and contribution, and speaks to Values-Based Leadership as the activator of that potential. And while the true intent of the work is to help our associates become the best version of themselves, one of the business outcomes is a highly engaged, highly inspired workforce that exhibits exceptionally healthy levels of morale, motivation and satisfaction.
We focus not only what we do, but how and why we do it with a culture that prioritizes enterprise-wide alignment to a set of timeless core values and a purpose beyond just making money.
Our values journey began in 2003 during a period when the company had been experiencing unprecedented growth. And while the sales, profits and cash flow had grown to levels we had never experienced before, so had the dysfunction. It started at the top of the organization and as we all know, the culture is a shadow of the leaders so you can only imagine what was going on enterprise wide. We finally reached out for help and a friend sat with the company officers early in 2004 and asked us a few questions. The first was, “What would you like to change about the company?” About 10 minutes in to writing down our answers he asked us to stop and put down our pens. His next question was the one that when looking back, changed the company and our lives forever. He asked, “How many of you wrote down yourselves?” It may not have been in this moment but it was not long after that we truly began to understand the influence, accountability and responsibility of leadership. That if we wanted to change anything in the company, we the leaders had to go first.
All human beings are born with the extraordinary potential to live a life of meaning and contribution.
In 2003 there was no cheerfulness, zeal and enthusiasm at Luck Companies and the incredible loyalty we had been experiencing for decades was deteriorating. In other words, workplace morale was abysmally low and it may come as no surprise to know it was most likely the lowest among the senior most leadership team of the organization.
For the years to follow, we embraced Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee’s sentiments about the enduring reality of business that everyone watches the boss and as a result, people take their emotional cues from the top. A new mission, set of values, and leadership competencies were developed and we began our work to align actions and behaviors at the officer level first. We quickly learned that leadership truly was an inside out job in that how they showed up everyday was much more about who they were vs. what they knew. And when our leaders’ personal values and the company’s values were in alignment, their personal lives improved and they felt more positive at work. Attitudes changed, spirits began to lift and morale improved.
Today, after almost 12 years of work one of our most deeply held beliefs is that leadership is a choice, not a title or position; a conscious choice to work first on yourself to in turn ignite the extraordinary potential in those around you. From the C-suite to the quarry floor (we are a mining company, predominantly blue collar) all of our associates have taken multiple assessments to better understand themselves and improve their relationships with others. We ask everyone, both hourly and salaried associates alike, to complete a minimum requirement of Values-Based Leadership courses each year, and daily rituals occur across the enterprise to keep our values top of mind. All of our performance reviews and reward programs are over weighted with a blend of values behaviors and leadership competencies with the most coveted recognition being those who are elected by their peers as our top Values-Based Leaders. We work hard to seek the alignment originated by our work at the top with each and every associate to drive the same outcome of improved workplace morale. And we truly believe that while positive emotions are clearly driven from the top, they can in fact emanate from anywhere in the organization.
Leadership is a choice, not a title or position; a conscious choice to work first on yourself to in turn ignite the extraordinary potential in those around you.
The first few sentences in Primal Leadership read, “Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us.” At Luck Companies we experience all of our associates – we call them Values-Based Leaders – doing just that, breathing life into those around them on any given day. And as a result, on any given day, workplace morale soars.
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